Youthful Kays squad falls to Olympians
KANKAKEE — The growing pains continued Thursday for a young Kankakee baseball team.
Rich Central played the ultimate version of small ball against the Kays (2-7), stealing 12 bases on its way to a 15-2 victory.
“We’re working on a lot of things, but the No. 1 thing to take away from today is we’ve got to hold runners on better. ... We’ve got to not just look once and go (to the plate),” Kays coach Brian Manering said. “We had a freshman and a sophomore catch today, so just learning the game of baseball is one of the things we’re trying to teach these kids.”
The youth behind the plate was reflective of the Kays’ lineup as five freshman made an appearance for the first-year coach.
“We’re not just thinking about this year. ... We’re thinking about a couple of years down the road and how to build the program,” Manering said. “And that’s what we preach to the kids, not to get too high or too low, because this game will humble you fast.”
Kankakee held a brief lead after the first inning. With the bases loaded and two outs, first baseman Robert Dillon struck out swinging on a dropped third strike. When Olympians catcher Jared Thompkins’ throw to first base rifled into right field, Keelan Bell and Ethan McNeely crossed the plate to give the Kays a 2-1 lead.
But that’s when the Olympians started playing musical chairs on the base paths. They batted around in the second and third innings, scoring five runs, recording three hits and drawing a pair of walks in each frame.
Ethan McNeely took the loss on the bump for the Kays. He pitched three innings and allowed 11 runs (10 earned) on seven hits and six walks.
“He’s thrown twice the past two weeks after not only throwing the first game of the year, so he’s just trying to get his feet wet again,” Manering said. “I liked what I saw. ... His velocity was there, and he was throwing strikes, he just started to tire out there.
“He’s going to be a big part of this program for the next year and a half, and I like the direction we’re going.”
Bell, Dandy Medina and Cam Vinson each had a hit for the Kays, who drew four walks as a team, a pair by leadoff hitter E.J. Robertson.
Kankakee will be back in action Saturday when they travel to Joliet Central for a doubleheader at 11 a.m.